Translator: Foxs' Wuxia
The two slowly went down the hill and walked towards the abandoned village.
Tonight, the cloud was thick, the moon and the stars did not shine their light, the mountain breeze was whooshing, the atmosphere was bleak and desolate.
Xu Ziling asked, “Why does Xibai Xiong think that there’s something fishy with this village?”
Hou Xibai replied, “The structure and the scale of the buildings in this village are different from ordinary remote small villages, it seems to be a place where people with quite a family background shunned the world and lived in seclusion, hence I feel it is a little demonical.”
Xu Ziling nodded and said, “It does feel that way. But previously Kou Zhong and I did not care about it, we even burned down several of the houses.
Hou Xibai smiled and said, “I still have a question: didn’t Ziling just say that after sustaining injury, you thought about things that you normally overlooked; I wonder what things are those? I’m extremely curious.”
Xu Ziling softly said, “I am pondering over this matchlessly huge, without the beginning, without the end – mysterious universe, she is in front of us, like an endless riddle, standing outside of us, yet also intimately related to us, moreover, we are part of her. This feeling is exceptionally fascinating, merely contemplating and meditating on her, in itself is like a relief, some kind of transcendence. This kind of feeling was elevated and purified from the distress of the injury; furthermore, I vaguely feel that purely by relying on this line of thought I can grasp or even alter the current situation, so much so to cure the internal injuries.”
Greatly interested, Hou Xibai said, “Ziling’s way of thinking is very novel. But what you are saying is in fact the spiritual realm pursued by the people of the Xuan Men [mysterious gate (or school)] and Qiu Dao [lit. seeking the Way]. The Wu Dao’s [lit. martial art way] highest level of practice is also tied to the spiritual realm and self-cultivation.”
Xu Ziling cheerfully said, “Merely this kind of view and comprehension is enough to make me gain completely new understanding on the existence of heaven and earth, to grasp every moment before my eyes even more clearly. That is some kind of indescribable tranquility and joy.
Hou Xibai said, “The ‘Book of History’ has the fine sentence of ‘the heart of human is only dangerous, the heart of the Way is only abstruse, only the essence, only the one, to allow one to grasp consciousness’ [apologies, I have no idea what he was talking about]. The realm that Ziling’s words reached, common people can only approach.”
Xu Ziling recited in low voice, “The heart of the Way is only abstruse. Ay! The heart of the Way is only abstruse.”
“What is Ziling thinking?” Hou Xibai asked in astonishment, “Why did you sigh in despair [orig. sighing voice, wailing breath]?”
While chatting, the two arrived at the mouth of the village.
On both sides of the road, there were approximately two layers of buildings, the main street extending before them, linking the entire village, was overgrown with weeds.
Xu Ziling stopped suddenly; lowering his voice, he said, “Someone’s in the village.”
Hou Xibai smiled and said, “Only when there’s people will something happen. Since Ziling already has premonition that something is going to happen in the village, naturally there should be someone in the village. So, should we walk past freely, not to care of anything, or should we search from house to house?”
Xu Ziling cheerfully moved forward, calmly and indifferently he said, “If it is a blessing then it’s not a disaster; if it is a disaster then we can’t avoid it anyway. Since this is the time of turmoil and chaos of war [orig. soldiers mutiny and troops rebel], those who dare to be in this region can’t possibly be idle people. Let us go into the village to gain first-hand experience then.”
Side by side with him, Hou Xibai stepped into the main street of the abandoned village, while amassing his power at the same time, ready to deal with any sudden change.
Suddenly a lantern was lit in a house on the left.
Two people looked in surprise, only to see the lights moved to the window facing the street, a familiar sweet female voice gently said, “I wonder what wind is blowing, unexpectedly it carries Ziling and Hou Gongzi here?”
Li Shimin’s approximately twenty-thousand-man cavalry unit slowly filled the mountain and fields and plain on the west side of Kou Zhong’s mountaintop position, and formed a battle array. The three cavalry units holding lighted torches were like three fiery dragons snaking their way to come, illuminating the horizon that it turned fiery red. The military might flourishing, indeed it made those who looked at it had their hearts cold, their guts disappeared.
Li Shimin left the main army, escorted by more than a dozen high-ranking military officers and two thousand Dark Armored Warriors he went straight to the front line, giving up the impression that he was going to personally take part in battle and confront Kou Zhong head-on.
Kou Zhong stood outside the camp gate. Living high and looking down, his eyes followed Li Shimin coming closer. Standing on either side of him were Ma Chang and Ba Yegang, two great generals.
A complex emotion, which even he himself could not understand, welled up in Kou Zhong’s heart. From the time they got to know each other until this moment, after going through so many years of intertwining gratitude and grudges, he and Li Shimin finally reached the the-two-cannot-exist-together stage, to see who would succeed and become the king, who would be defeated and become the bandit. There was no leeway in between, furthermore, no one could change this situation.
Currently Li Shimin was occupying the upper hand, while he, Kou Zhong, had to endure the hunt, endure the beating. Yet he must turn this situation around.
There was no moment more than this moment that Kou Zhong was more eager of, as well as need – a victory, to create that kind of possibility in the midst of impossibility.
There was never a moment that Kou Zhong highly esteemed Li Shimin more than this moment, because he was indeed an extraordinary opponent.
From the time the Battle of Cijian opened its curtain to the breaking-out-the-siege battle, Li Shimin was like the ultimate wizard who possessed great magical power on the battlefield, who was playing with the enemies, Kou Zhong included, in the palm of his hand.
When Dou Jiande was executed in public by Li Yuanji in a cold and cruel manner before his eyes, Kou Zhong became a Buddha on the spot [epiphany], obtaining the moment of enlightenment of the true essence of the saber method and the art of war on the ruthless battlefield.
Li Shimin finally arrived at the front line. After whispering a few words in Wang Junkuo’s ears, he pushed open the crowd and stepped out, rushing straight toward where Kou Zhong stood. Zhangsun Wuji, Yuchi Jingde, Pang Yu, Luo Shixin, and the others, various generals and more than a hundred Dark Armored Warriors, hurriedly followed on his left and right.
Kou Zhong nearly wanted to pull out the Piercing the Sun Bow from his bosom and shot him over the distance, but then he remembered that they were, after all, friends, and the other side seemed to have something to say. Without any better option, he pressed down this attractive impulse; he raised his hand first to tell his men not to follow, and then strode forward a few steps. Laughing aloud toward Li Shimin galloping to the bottom of the slope, he said, “Sorry to trouble Shimin Xiong that you have to rush over without a good night sleep; Xiaodi really feels bad.”
Li Shimin reined his horse to stop, he spoke with a wry smile, “How did we get to be in such plight? Shaoshuai, please forgive Shimin for being unable to bear to speak nonsense again. To get back to the main point, Shaoshuai abandoned the south to get the east, it is indeed a strange move beyond Shimin’s expectation, hence I decided to do whatever it takes to have Shaoshuai remains in here.”
Kou Zhong spoke in great astonishment, “That being the case, why does Shimin Xiong still talk nonsense? Why not immediately give orders for an all-around attack?”
Li Shimin smiled slightly, he said, “Just listening to these two sentences, it sounds like Shaoshuai has a card up your sleeve, you are not going to take risks to attack Xiangcheng at all, not desperate enough charge straight toward Pengliang even more. Frankly speaking, there has never been anybody able to make Shimin feel headache and upset more often than Shaoshuai.”
Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, “Shimin Xiong need not praise Xiaodi. As for what magic weapon Xiaodi has, I am afraid everybody will have to wait and see! If Shimin Xiong has no other constructive comment, Xiaodi still has to take advantage of the dark to hasten on with my journey!”
Knitting his brows, Li Shimin said, “Now the northeast wind is blowing, supposing Shimin light a fire to burn the forest behind Shaoshuai’s army, the blaze and the thick smoke might be blown by the wind and engulf Shaoshuai’s mountaintop position, cutting off Shaoshuai’s escape route to the east. At that time, Shimin will divide the troops into three ways, from the front and two wings to attack Shaoshuai’s mountaintop position, to burn Shaoshuai’s simple and crude defensive structure using fire arrow, how is Shaoshuai going to deal with it? Can this be considered a constructive comment?”
Listening to that, Kou Zhong’s heart sank straight down. This move of Li Shimin was indeed extremely fierce and ruthless, so that the escaping grand plan that he originally thought was no longer feasible.
Smiling bitterly, he said, “It would be best for Shimin Xiong not to flaunt ignorant person’s bravado by personally lead your main forces to attack my disposition of troops, otherwise Xiaodi will take thy life first!”
Finished speaking, he swiftly retreated to his troops disposition.
Li Shimin sighed sadly and issued his order. The signalman transmitted the order using torches. Immediately raging flame arose about half a li behind the mountaintop position, so that two li across the mountain and fields were entirely caught in the blaze, carried by the wind, the fire spread in the direction of the mountaintop position.
Like an apparition, Wanwan, holding a lantern, stood in the window. In the flickering flame, they could see that she was wearing plain white clothes. The beautiful pupil of her eyes flashing with mysterious, unfathomable glorious light; both out-of-the-world lucid and elegant, and had some kind of strange, indescribable taste.
How would Ziling, two men ever expect that they would encounter Wanwan in the village? Momentarily they were stunned and unable to speak.
Revealing a touching brilliant smile, Wanwan spoke softly, “Ziling is injured? It really gives me heartache! Who would be that vile and have the ability to injure you? How about letting Wan’er demand justice for you? It’s windy outside, why haven’t you come in?”
The window turned dark as Wanwan took the lantern away with her, the two men you look at me I gaze at you, they were completely at a loss as how she appeared in this place.
‘Creak!’ The front door was pushed open, barefooted, Wanwan stood charmingly inside the door, and called out tenderly, “Come in!”
Xu Ziling did not doubt Wanwan’s sincerity the slightest bit, he took the lead to come into the house, so that Hou Xibai did not have any choice but to follow closely behind him.
Wanwan stepped aside to let the two entered the house, and then she closed the door.
It was obvious that the house had been through some cleaning, not a single speck of dust was to be seen, most of the furniture was still intact.
Wanwan walked past the two men, she placed the candlesticks on a small table by the window, with her back toward them, she spoke quietly, “I wonder if this is called when there’s fate, a thousand li apart can meet together? Oh, Xu Ziling! Why do you have to appear in front of me again? Ay! How about we sit down first and talk about it?”
Like silly birds, the two sat down on the chairs at the other side of the small table, looking at Wanwan’s graceful and touching figure from the back.
Clearing his throat, Hou Xibai said, “It looks like you have been living here for some time. Hey! Why did you choose this village? The area around here is not a place of peace and security at all!”
Wanwan spoke softly, “Hou Gongzi ought to know that Wan’er passed my childhood years in this exact small village. When I was fifteen, Shizun [benevolent master] abandoned this village and moved someplace else.”
It was only then did the two realize that this different-than-ordinary village manor was once Yin Gui Pai’s secret lair.
Wanwan turned her tender body around, and sat down opposite the two men. The pretty pupil of her eyes flashing, her beautiful eyes looked deeply into Xu Ziling’s eyes, she said, “Ziling still has not answered my question.”
Hou Xibai replied on his behalf, “It was Yang Xuyan, that kid. He had trained and mastered and fused Bu Si Yin Fa and the ‘Yu Jin Wan Fa Gen Yuan Zhi Jing’ evil arts, taking advantage while Ziling was surrounded by powerful masters in the battlefield, he struck and inflicted serious damage on Ziling.”
Her eyebrows deeply knitted, Wanwan said, “Unexpectedly there is such matter?”
Hou Xibai cast Xu Ziling a glance, and then he said with wry smile, “Honestly, until this moment I am still not too convinced that Yang Xuyan is able to master Bu Si Yin Fa, but Xu Ziling thought so, hence I told you what he told me.”
Changing the subject, Xu Ziling asked, “I wonder if Wan Dajie is planning on living in seclusion here and training in secret?”
Wanwan responded indifferently, “Observing things that wounded the feeling, surely this is not a good place for me to live in seclusion. You came across me here, simply because Wan’er have appointment with the people of my humble Sect to meet here tonight, to settle the problem of in whose hands would the ‘Tian Mo Jue’ in Wan’er’s hands belong to. Wan’er no longer have any interest in continued entanglement with them.”
Xu Ziling did not understand, he asked, “All you need to do is to find a secluded place to hide, who would be able to find you? Why do you have to take this risk?”
Wanwan smiled and said, “Because I want them to know that I am the Yin Gui Pai’s legitimate heir, the Yin Gui Pai’s successor. It will be by me that Yin Gui Pai’s new fire will continue and spread, will be brought to great height of development.”
Hou Xibai spoke heavily, “The ‘Tian Mo Jue’ is not only the object that everybody in your honorable Sect covets, none of the other factions of the Holy School does not lust after. If you provoke Shi Shi to come here, you will be trying to be clever and end up with egg on your face!”
With a smile on her face, Wanwan shook her head and said, “No one can take the ‘Tian Mo Jue’ from me, including your honorable master. Wan’er already mastered the Tian Mo Da Fa, the last move, ‘Yu Shi Ju Fen’ [burning both jade and common stone], even your honorable master does not have complete confidence to deal with. This time I am making the life or death appointment, it is precisely to prove to everybody of the Holy School that I, Wanwan, am not only qualified, but also have the ability to keep the thing that Shizun personally handed over to me.”
Xu Ziling cried out in low voice, “Someone’s entering the village!”
Wanwan looked at him in surprise.
Bian Bufu’s voice was heard from the street, “Wan’er, what’s the reason behind all these troubles? Why haven’t you come out to see your Bian Shishu?”
Wanwan’s expression returned to its usual cold and detached, tranquil look, she spoke softly, “Wait until I kill this man, then I’ll think of a way to help Ziling to cure his injury.” Finished speaking, she floated out the door like a specter.
Kou Zhong returned inside the disposition of troops. All around him, the officers and soldiers’ countenance deathly white, everybody looked at him, thinking that there was no way he would have good plan [orig. effective medicine] to deal with it.
Kou Zhong’s expression tranquil, almost cold, unfeeling; he spoke heavily, “Using fire to fight fire, using fast to defeat slow.”
Hearing that, Chen Laomou and the others understood thoroughly, they secretly cursed themselves that even such a simple solution they were unable to think.
Ba Yegang issued the order, one after another the warriors on the mountaintop threw the torches in their hands toward the two wings and the hillside in front of them. Under the high wind and the dry season, the raging flame rose up and rolled toward the enemy’s position.
With the thick smoke covering the sky, Kou Zhong flew onto the horseback, he led his men escaping from the gap on the east side of the formation, taking advantage of the time when the blaze had not spread to the east side. Five thousand men and horses forming an angry-fire-like convoy, they rushed wildly toward the south.
The big blaze was rolling in from the east, but the big blaze on the other side, hiding the sky and covering the earth, was cutting off the enemy’s pursuit. They were galloping at full speed precisely in between these two fires, in an attempt to escape the danger zone one step ahead before the enemy made further interceptions.
Ahead, the sound of battle cry shook the heavens, the three-thousand-man Tang Army’s cavalry unit being deployed in that direction charged forward to intercept them head-on.
Why would Kou Zhong take them to heart? Under cover of thick smoke rolling over, the Shao Shuai Army continued setting the mountain and fields on their right side on fire, cutting off the enemy’s main forces on the west side, while charging and breaking through the enemy lines at the same time.
Kou Zhong sent Wuming to the sky, before fetching the Piercing-the-Sun Bow, and releasing a string of arrows. One after another the enemies nursed a grievance under the arrows. Kou Zhong used the Moon in the Well to open up a path, so that the enemies, who came in contact with the fierce and severe offensive and the army staking everything to break out of the siege – were scattered and smashed, they dispersed in all directions. The main forces escaped out of the encirclement of the intensity of fire, and ran away via the gap on the south side of the fire into the wilderness. At this point, the forest behind them was entirely engulfed in the ocean of fire.
Wanwan had barely disappeared out of the door, immediately they heard Bian Bufu’s cry of alarm and the sound of qi power clashing against each other in intense fighting; a clear sign that Wanwan immediately made her move to kill Bian Bufu without any trace of politeness.
Xu Ziling and Hou Xibai you looked at me I gazed at you, they both did not expect Wanwan to be this dauntless, without giving the slightest bit of consideration toward her martial art uncle – martial art nephew [sic], senior – junior relationship with Bian Bufu.
The two men got up in a hurry and moved to the window to watch the battle.
Bian Bufu was in absolute inferior position, Wanwan’s filling-the-whole-sky palm shadows attacked him that he blocked to the left and dodged to the right clumsily, battered and exhausted, his life was in imminent peril.
Five figures floated down from the roof of the building across the street. They were precisely Yin Gui Pai’s ‘Cloud and Rain Double-Cultivation’ Pi Shouxuan and Wen Caiting, Xia Zhanglao [elder], plus the ‘Yin Fa Yan Mei’ [silver-haired amorous demon] Dan Mei, and Rong Fengxiang, whom the two had never expected to appear.
Pi Shouxuan shouted sternly, “You have not stopped fighting for me?”
Wanwan launched an amazing-to-the-extreme-point palm chop, Bian Bufu was giving everything he had, still he was unable to dodge, he was only able to, albeit with difficulty – avoid the hit on the vital part on the pit of his stomach, by using his shoulder to take the palm strike, immediately the sound of shattered bones was heard. Anybody would know that his left arm could be considered a scrap.
Hit by the palm, Bian Bufu was thrown away and fell. Elder Xia supported his back, ‘Wah!’ he spurted a mouthful of fresh blood, his countenance was deathly; evidently not only his arm was crippled by Wanwan, he also suffered heavy internal injury. This naturally-wicked man’s pair of eyes emitted incomparably venomous hatred, yet he was powerless to avenge himself.
Wanwan acted as if she had just committed an insignificant, idle thing; she spoke indifferently, “Bian Shishu has always shown concern over Wan’er, naturally Wan’er is very grateful, how could I be willing to miss the opportunity to repay it?”
“How dare you!” Pi Shouxuan shouted angrily, “Disrespecting your superior, and still dare to speak conceited nonsense.”
Wen Caiting cast her gaze toward Xu Ziling and Hou Xibai standing inside the window; letting out a grim cold laughter, she said, “Turns out there are outsiders supporting Wan’er, no wonder you are so unbridled.”
Inside the house, Xu Ziling and Hou Xibai were greatly astonished, realizing that Wen Caiting did not know at all that Xu Ziling suffered internal injury and could not fight at all. If the two men really stood on Wanwan’s side, it would be greatly disadvantageous to Wen Caiting’s side, but why did Wen Caiting act as if she did not take the two men to heart at all? The only explanation was, naturally, the other side had other reinforcement, hence they were practically unafraid that the two men might help Wanwan.
Wanwan acted as if she did not hear Wen Caiting at all; she looked coldly at Rong Fengxiang, and spoke indifferently, “What does the internal dispute within our Sect have anything to do with Daozhang [Taoist priest]?”
Elder Xia took a step forward. Her face as cold as the water, she said, “The Two Sects and Six Ways are originally one family, not only Pi Chen Dao Xiong [brother Taoist] is one of us, he is also your Zunzhang [superior/senior]. Disrespecting superiors is a capital offense.”
Wanwan let out a silver-bell-like tender laughter, “Really a joke,” she said, “What superior and subordinate, top and bottom? Before her death, Shizun already appointed me, Wanwan as the Yin Gui Pai’s Zhangmenren [Sect Leader] of this generation, plus there is ‘Tian Mo Jue’ as the proof. Therefore, it is you that offend your superior just now. I will carry out the school’s rules, you are all sentenced to death.”
Dan Mei sighed, she spoke softly, “Why all this? The Council of Elders has unanimously decided to seize this opportunity to re-establish the Holy School, and cooperate in one mind with the other factions of the Holy School to strive for the sake of the Holy School’s future. Laoshen [lit. old body, referring to self] single-handedly raised Wan’er, I really do not wish to see Wan’er obstinately persisted in going about things the wrong way, and thus bringing your self-destruction.”
In his heart, Xu Ziling suddenly understood; speaking about martial art skill, Dan Mei was no more than so-so, she could not possibly be of any use. The reason why she was invited was because of her special relationship with Wanwan, they were hoping to move her with affection.
Bian Bufu struggled hard to stand up, he spoke furiously, “Even if this lowly [servant] girl kneeled to beg forgiveness, I will not let her get away.”
Pi Shouxuan was about to speak, they heard a gust of wind from the other end of the main street. More than a dozen martial art masters, under Li Yuanji’s command, like demon and monsters, appeared in the village.